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Amy Dalrymple, Published October 24 2009

Hanson to lead NDSU in interim

The time was right for Richard Hanson to make a move.

He didn’t plan on North Dakota State University, but when the opportunity arose he chose to give back to his alma mater.

“I think it’s high time that I start giving back because the university has given a great deal to me,” said Hanson, a former Bison athlete who worked for NDSU for 15 years.

The state Board of Higher Education voted unanimously Friday to appoint Hanson interim president of NDSU. President Joseph Chapman announced last week he will resign Jan. 2.

Hanson will begin the seven-month appointment around Dec. 1, or as soon as he fulfills his current job obligations.

Chancellor Bill Goetz said he’s still in discussions with Chapman about the transition, but he wants Hanson to begin as soon as possible.

“Dr. Hanson will be the president the day he arrives,” Goetz said.

Hanson, president of Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, announced this fall he would leave his post because the college is being sold.

The 59-year-old was scheduled to interview next week for the permanent presidency of Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina, but he withdrew Friday after being offered the NDSU job.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; it’s a privilege to serve this university, and I absolutely want to do that,” Hanson said. “There will be other positions, but there’s only one NDSU.”

Hanson, a Hillsboro, N.D., native, earned two degrees at NDSU, where he later worked as a faculty member and administrator.

Now Hanson wants to guide NDSU through the transition.

“NDSU has lost a cherished president,” Hanson said. “What I want to do is help the university get itself ready for the next step.”

Hanson was the only name recommended by Goetz for interim president. He flew to Fargo on Thursday for an interview with Goetz and board President Richie Smith.

Goetz said he also spoke with NDSU Provost Craig Schnell about the position, but decided an external candidate would best help the university through the transition.

Jon Backes, the board’s vice president, said having Schnell continue as provost is important.

“If we were to name him interim, we leave another hole and create further issues of continuity,” said Backes, of Minot.

Schnell, who has worked with Hanson before, said he’s pleased with the board’s choice.

“Dick has had a long history with NDSU as a student, an athlete, a faculty member and an administrator,” Schnell said. “The students really liked him.”

Hanson’s salary will be $175,000. He will not receive any other type of allowances, Goetz said.

The goal is for a permanent president to begin July 1. The board will decide on Nov. 19 who will be on the search committee and whether a search consultant will be hired.

Hanson said it’s premature for him to think about being a candidate for the permanent job.

“What I have to do is a good job, and after that it will take care of itself,” he said. “If I don’t do a good job, the question is moot.”

Chapman is looking forward to working with Goetz and Hanson during the transition, said spokeswoman Najla Amundson.

Chapman will be gone from Tuesday through Nov. 8 looking for a house in Colorado, she said.

Prakash Mathew, vice president for student affairs, said Hanson was a popular teacher when he was at NDSU.

“I think he’s a good person, and he connects very well with people,” he said.

Amber Altstadt, NDSU’s student body president, said she’s never met Hanson, but she has trust in the board’s decision.

“Dr. Hanson obviously values NDSU and what we stand for, so we’re very hopeful,” Altstadt said.

Mark Meister, president of the NDSU Senate, said he’s glad the board acted as quickly as it did.

“It’s a good day at NDSU,” Meister said. “People are walking around with a greater sense of hope. The uncertainty is lifted.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590